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Equality Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:39 am on 9th June 2009.

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Jon Benjamin: It is self-evident that charities and voluntary groups, be they religious or otherwise, make a huge contribution to the welfare services in this country. My concern, again, is about apparent conflicts and managing those conflicts and interpretations.

If one takes the example of a care home for elderly Jewish people or a battered women’s refuge, clearly, they are providing a service, possibly because of the vulnerability of the beneficiaries, for a particular group or minority, religious or otherwise. They are providing a service. They may be doing it at some cost to themselves, therefore relieving the state or the local authority of that burden, but there is concern that the public duty of a local authority that procures those services will be interpreted differently from the exceptions that are quite legitimately open to the service provider. It is a matter of helping the people who will apply this to understand that, notwithstanding their public duty in terms of discrimination and equality, it is legitimate for a particular group to provide a care home for elderly Jewish people, battered Muslim women or whoever it may be. That conflict needs to be managed and explained.